Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar looks on as aide Catherine Bellah Keller hands documents to Donald Trump during the signing of a spending bill at the White House on Friday. AP
The legislation provides federal public health agencies with money for vaccines, tests and potential treatments and helps state and local governments prepare and respond to the threat. The rapid spread of the virus has rocked financial markets, interrupted travel and threatens to affect everyday life in the United States.
Trump had planned to sign the bill during a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. But he told reporters on Friday that concerns were raised about "one person who was potentially infected” who worked at the CDC. Trump said the person has since tested negative for the new virus, and the CDC was added to his schedule on Friday.
The Senate passed the $8.3 billion measure on Thursday to help tackle the outbreak in hopes of reassuring a fearful public and accelerating the government's response to the virus. Its rapid spread is threatening to upend everyday life in the US and across the globe.
The money would pay for a multifaceted attack on a virus that is spreading more widely every day, sending financial markets spiraling again Thursday, disrupting travel and potentially threatening the US economy's decade-long expansion.
Thursday's sweeping 96-1 vote sends the bill to the White House for President Donald Trump's signature. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., cast the sole "no” vote. The House passed the bill Wednesday by a 415-2 vote.
The plan would more than triple the $2.5 billion amount outlined by the White House 10 days ago. The Trump proposal was immediately discarded by members of Congress from both parties. Instead, the bipartisan leadership of the House and Senate Appropriations committees negotiated the increased figure and other provisions of the legislation in a burst of bipartisan cooperation that's common on the panel but increasingly rare elsewhere in Washington.
"In situations like this, I believe no expense should be spared to protect the American people, and in crafting this package none was,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala. "It's an aggressive plan, a vigorous plan that has received an overwhelming positive reaction.”
Trump was sure to sign the measure, which has almost universal support. It is intended to project confidence and calm as anxiety builds over the impact of the virus, which has claimed more than a dozen lives in the US.
India has also closed a border with neighbouring Myanmar to counter the coronavirus outbreak, as countries across South Asia reported a rise in cases on Wednesday. No cases have so far been confirmed in Myanmar.
Coronavirus concerns led Saudi Arabia to cut off air and sea travel with Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, South Korea, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. The kingdom had earlier closed off its land borders as well.
"We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction. We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterised as a pandemic," WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference on Wednesday.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned on Thursday that several countries were not showing "the level of political commitment" needed to "match the level of the threat we all face." "This is not a drill," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters. "This epidemic is a threat for every country, rich and poor."
Also, for the first time in the history of the weekly draw, 7 Emirati second prize winners have topped the list of 22 Arab winners representing Lebanon, Jordan Syria, Egypt, Oman and Yemen.
"The 1.5 billion euros ($1.5 billion) was brought to the table today. It's money that will be used in 2022, this year and next year," Danish Defence Minister Morten said during a news conference.
Lieutenant Colonel Muhammad Abdul Rahman Bin Qasmol, Acting Director of Wasit Comprehensive Police Station, honoured Ziyad Rashid Maydan in appreciation of his honesty and keenness to hand over a wallet containing official documents and a large sum of money, which he found in an area of Sharjah.